April 24, 2000
Money, Yes, But More
continued...page 3 of 3
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New job opportunities make IT retention and recruitment especially difficult for traditional organizations, such as government agencies. Bob Krause, VP of E-commerce for the U.S. Postal Service, says the 840,000-employee agency can't compete head-to-head with private industry. With an agencywide salary cap of $150,000, the Postal Service must rely on intangibles. While readily conceding that it sounds corny, Krause is unapologetic about the patriotism he feels working for the Postal Service. Even though IT workers could make more in the private sector, he and his colleagues provide a service that touches all Americans in a way that nothing else in the private sector does, says Krause.
Not everyone at the Postal Service shares his sense of duty. In the last two years, Krause has seen the highest IT staff loss in his 27 years with the service--mostly to online startups. For instance, former chief technology officer Norm Lorentz left to go to Earthweb.com Inc. in New York, and Krause says he's lost several of his key knowledge managers.
After money concerns, IT professionals surveyed say the key reasons they go job hunting are to find more interesting work, get away from the current company's management or culture, and because opportunities in the job market are just too good to pass up. Such opportunities appealed to Phillip Gordon, an enterprise architect who left a traditional mutual fund company for an online financial-services company. A cut in base pay was more than offset by the company's lucrative post-IPO stock options.
But Gordon's experience demonstrates that the grass isn't always greener. He joined the dot-com expecting opportunities and excitement, and instead found himself in a nightmare. "When I arrived, the job was gone." Gordon says his hiring manager, the VP of operations, had abruptly resigned. The CIO, who had also interviewed Gordon, neglected to tell him before his start date. Recalling a morning meeting on his first day on the job, "the CIO drew an organization chart, and I wasn't on it," he says. "I was re-org'd a half-hour into starting the job."
The company gave Gordon a different job, but it took considerable effort for him to regain his equilibrium. Once settled into his revised duties, he felt dismay at what he observed in the work culture. "A lack of process meant not only unnecessary work, but at times IT groups were actually working at cross-purposes," he says. "It was very frustrating." After three months, he'd had enough and quit. Now much happier--and better compensated--Gordon is a contract development manager at Headland Digital Media in San Francisco, a dot-com division of education media company Pearson plc.
Tan Nguyen, an IT professional who left Veritas Software Corp. to join a startup last year, also had a negative experience. The salary increase was modest, but he expected great things of both the work environment and the stock options. "I like the startup mentality," he says. "It's unstructured, challenging, exciting--everything I'm looking for."
As the company's 43rd hire, he expected to help set the culture. "I expected a can-do attitude," he says. What he found was divisiveness. "Each group would blame the other when something went wrong, or they'd just sit there. I decided to move on." Nguyen has since started a business-to-business dot-com of his own, Taxiquest.com Inc., which aims to use technology to help taxi-fleet owners operate more efficiently "I am able to accomplish what I like to do and set the culture," he says. "As the founder, you can do that. Money is less important now."
While the new economy has allowed some IT professionals to try new things, the InformationWeek survey indicates that most workers are averse to such risks. After job challenge, flexible work schedules and job stability replace job atmosphere and base pay in last year's survey as the second and third most-important issues.
Recruiters are also noticing the increase in demand for flexible work schedules and job stability. Matteson Partners.com's Rowley says a lot of candidates aren't interested in taking a risk with a pre-IPO startup. Increasingly, the people he represents want to be with a stable, more traditional company.
However, a divergence between management and staff takes place after the top four areas of importance on the survey. In general, IT managers say they had a greater interest in strategic goals tied to status and achievement within the company, while staffers tend to select personal needs such as flextime and vacation. IT staffers rated skill development much more highly than managers, while involvement in company strategy and goal setting was three times more important to managers than to staffers.
Rowley provides an example from a recent recruiting effort. "One guy wanted to be sure that he had three weeks of vacation--not two--so I had to spend a lot of time negotiating for that third week." He says of another job-seeker, "I've got a senior analyst, state-of-the-art guy, and on the second sentence of the objective on his resumé, he wrote that 'a casual work environment would be highly desirable.'" He adds that IT professionals are less likely to view travel as a perk than in the past, especially if they have children.
The survey shows that IT workers, as one might expect, put in a lot of hours. The average IT staffer works 45 hours a week and is on call another 15 hours. IT staffers in training and application integration put in the longest weeks, a median of 50 hours; IT staffers in data-center management are on call the most, a median of 40 hours per week.
Managers work even longer, a median of 50 hours per week, plus another 16 hours on call. IT managers in data-center management are on call the most, a median of 28 hours per week. The good news is that the hours worked by both staffers and managers are virtually identical to the numbers in last year's survey.
However, regional variations are likely. Management Recruiters International's Russel, who recruits almost exclusively in Ohio and Indiana, characterizes his region as "more down to earth than some of the craziness in Silicon Valley. In the Midwest, a lot of people are looking to balance work with life, family, and church. Not many are looking to work 60 to 80 hours per week," he says.
IT professionals also seem to be wising up to the dark side of California's Silicon Valley, where many IT workers willingly trade off their time in hopes of getting in on a good IPO so they can afford a $1 million ranch-style house in a middle-class neighborhood. Plenty of IT people in other regions make good money, enjoy strong job satisfaction, and have greater control over their personal lives.
Gary Morgan is one. The senior applications manager at Ritz-Carlton Corp. in Atlanta knows he could make more money if he went to a dot-com that hit it big, but he likes his life the way it is. "We have lots of flexibility, and not just in IS," says Morgan, who's been on staff since last July and served as a consultant to the Ritz since 1987.
Morgan says the Ritz gives employees a lot of authority in managing day-to-day operations, determining how standards are set, and setting the atmosphere of the workplace. "If a customer comes to me and I'm an employee, I own that issue until it's resolved," says Morgan.
There are three constants for talented IT professionals, says Daversa: passion for the work, the prestige associated with it, and the prosperity it offers. In the pursuit of ever-greater compensation and challenge, the love of the work remains.
Enamics Inc's Saltzman may echo other IT professionals' sentiments when she says she just can't stay away. "When I started my career, I migrated away from technology for a while, but I came back to tech because things change so fast," she says. "Nothing ever gets stale. People who end up in the field reflect that. It's very exciting, and a great world to be in."
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